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High Court dismisses Najib's stay application in RM1.69b IRB suit

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 28): The High Court here today dismissed former premier Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's stay application in relation to the Inland Revenue Board's suit to recover RM1.69 billion in unpaid taxes.

Justice Datuk Ahmad Bache ruled the Pekan MP's application for a stay is against public interests.

"A case of this nature and magnitude involving public figures like the defendant (Najib) is to be heard and should be disposed of speedily.

"If a stay is to be granted, it would result in the hearing of the present suit is to be deferred indefinitely," he said.

Najib had made the stay application as he wants the outcome of his present trials to be determined first before this case is heard.

"The inherent powers of the court (to grant a stay) should not be used to override the substantive law (ie the Income Tax Act 1967)," the judge said.

Justice Ahmad Bache also ruled the special circumstances put forth by Najib's lawyers do not hold water and failed the nugatory test.

“This court is of the considered opinion that the plaintiff (Malaysian government) had the monetary ability to compensate the defendant (Najib) should he succeed in the appeal at the Dispute Resolution Department of the IRB (the special commissioner of income tax).

“There is no unquantifiable loss that could not be recovered from the plaintiff should the defendant succeed in the appeal. This reason merits consideration in favour of the plaintiff to not granting the stay. On the other hand, the defendant has not shown any cogent evidence to prove the plaintiff's inability to compensate,” the judge said.

He added in the 28-page judgment that the Federal Court stipulates in the case Arumugam Pillai vs Government of Malaysia (1980) that “the provision of pay first and talk afterwards” may arguably be a harsh one but it is an intentional provision of the legislature, having regard to the incidence of tax evasion.

“What sympathy there is must be reserved for the innocent who are made to suffer along with the tax evaders,” said Justice Ahmad in quoting the apex court judgment.

The court further ordered Najib to pay RM15,000 costs for having his stay application dismissed.

Najib was represented by lawyers Muhammad Farhan Shafee and Wee Yeong Kong while senior federal counsel Norhisham Ahmad, Al Hummidallah Idrus and Nor Asmah Adam appeared for the government.

With the decision today, the government and IRB's application to obtain a summary judgment for the unpaid tax may now proceed.

It was reported that the government filed the suit against Najib on June 25 last year, where it sought over RM1.69 billion, with an annual 5% interest rate beginning from the date of judgment.

The government claimed that the former premier had failed to pay his income tax from 2011 to 2017 within the stipulated 30-day period after assessment notices were issued by the IRB.

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